How to Teach Shakespeare to Children

Two Methods:Getting StartedShakespeare Terms Guide

Four centuries after his death, William Shakespeare remains the world's pre-eminent playwright and perhaps the most renowned author in the English language. His poems and plays have had inestimable influence on the Western literary tradition, and his narratives have seen countless adaptations in literature, theater, film, and television. Unfortunately, Shakespeare's use of English often makes him seem impenetrable to modern readers, and especially to children. There are several resources available to help you teach Shakespeare to children, however. These resources will hopefully allow young readers to engage the Bard's works firsthand before long.

Getting Started

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    Introduce your children to Charles and Mary Lamb's classic Shakespeare adaptations. In 1807, this brother and sister duo adapted 21 of Shakespeare's works into a children's book entitled Tales from Shakespeare. The aim of the work was to make the plays accessible while preserving as much as possible of the Bard's language. The narratives of each play are preserved, as well as the Elizabethan flair of the original language.
    • These adaptations have been illustrated by several different artists. These illustrations further increase the appeal to young readers.
    • Because many of Shakespeare's own words are retained, these works should provide a steady foundation for approaching his plays firsthand.
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    Allow your children to read the modern translations presented in No Fear Shakespeare. No Fear Shakespeare is a series of books published by Sparknotes that gives the original text of each play with a facing modern translation. This makes the books excellent resources for children, as the modern, accessible renderings can be compared directly against Shakespeare's original prose.
    • Previews of each book's translation can be viewed on the Sparknotes website.
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    Introduce Shakespeare to children visually through Shakespeare: The Animated Tales. This television series was first broadcast in 1992, and contains 12 of Shakespeare's plays in 30 minute animated adaptations. This series may be especially helpful to very young children who aren't able to engage with Shakespeare in even a modern English translation.
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    Show your children a performance by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. This comedy trio is known for abridging major works or entire canons into short stage comedies, and their most famous play is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). Because the Bard's entire oeuvre is compressed into 90 minutes, neither the full narratives nor the original language are preserved very well. However, this type of light-hearted treatment might help young students see Shakespeare in a new, more approachable light.
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    Introduce very young readers to Shakespeare with Marcia Williams' Tales from Shakespeare. This book presents 7 of Shakespeare's plays in a format intended for very young children. The plays are illustrated in a comic strip style, with the stage play's dialogue appearing in speech balloons above each character.
    • Marcia Williams has also published a second volume entitled More Tales from Shakespeare, which includes 7 more plays. She has also published similar children's books on Homer, Charles Dickens, and other authors.

Shakespeare Terms Guide

Sample Shakespeare Terms


  • Pedagogical strategies are just as important to consider as the resources you will use. For example, if teaching children Shakespeare in a group setting, you might allow them to act out the play rather than read it.

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Categories: Studying Literature